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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Harry Reid blasts Rubio over Hispanic issues



Harry Reid in a Politico article today criticized Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for his role in holding up the confirmation of Mari Carmen Aponte as ambassador to El Salvador: "I just think it’s a mistake for someone who is supposedly representing Hispanic issues to do what [Rubio] has done."

Reid's office previously criticized Rubio, as did the White House.

But coming directly from the top Democrat, the criticism brought recriminations from Republicans, who say Reid typecast Rubio. "One day after Jim Messina's insensitive Chimichanga comment, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid makes an inflammatory remark regarding one of the Republicans' rising stars ...," said the RNC.

Rubio does not view himself as Hispanic only (i.e., the issues he focuses on appeal to a broad constituency). Yet it's no secret the GOP has been eager to see his star brighten, with an eye on attracting Hispanic voters. When Rubio condemned Newt Gingrich's ad calling Mitt Romney anti-Hispanic, it carried weight not only because Rubio is popular but because he's Hispanic.

It's a fine line that can sometimes get complicated, if not messy.

Aponte was never confirmed, something the White House partly blamed on Rubio, saying he did not deliver Republican votes as promised. Rubio says he had them but Democrats failed to act. He said he was pushing for the administration to condemn elections in Nicaragua. Cuba politics were also in play. A former boyfriend of Aponte's was accused years ago of being a Cuban spy.

In any event, a deal fell through.

Democrats eager to knock the rising Rubio down a peg have tried to keep the issue alive. But it has hurt, Rubio as well. Aponte is Puerto Rican,  the first to serve as an ambassador, and Rubio's actions upset many Puerto Ricans in the Orlando area.

Rubio recently held meeting in the area, underscoring an awareness of the political sensitivity.

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 4:47pm]


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